Winter Driving Tips & Eight Winter Vehicle Essentials

Whether you’re excited for the cold season once again or dreaming of warmer temperatures, winter is officially here folks! With that comes the joys of navigating winter weather driving conditions that we Canadians know all too well. Snow, sleet, and ice can cause havoc on the roads and create dangerous driving conditions. We’ve put together some tips to help you feel more comfortable on your commute this winter as well as what emergency items every Canadian driver shouldn’t leave the house without!

Winter Driving Tips

No matter if you are a new driver, a new to Canada driver, or a pro when it comes to navigating icy roads, these tips will keep you and others on the road safe this winter.

  1. Check weather conditions and know your route ahead of time.
    • Regardless of how long you could be on the road, weather can change on a dime. If you don’t need to be on the road it might be best to leave your errands for another day. If you are planning on going out, know your route ahead of time.
    • If you are traveling on highways, check out the road updates on all major highways in your province.
  2. Slow it down.
    • The posted speed limits are a guide when road conditions are ideal. Take conditions into account when choosing a safe and comfortable speed. It’s more important to get to your destination safely than dealing with a fender bender or a car in the ditch.
    • Patience is key and only pass when it is necessary and safe to do so.
    • Winter road tip #1: Pavement should have a grey-white look to it in the winter, so pay extra attention if it looks like shiny new asphalt as that’s black ice!
  3. Keep plenty of distance.
    • Reminder that your brake time can be much longer due to ice build-up on the roads so give yourself plenty of time to slow down when approaching intersections. The distance to come to a stop can be double that of dry road conditions.
    • Check out this resource on stop times and the impact that winter tires can have. Make sure you are keeping a safe distance when near or passing plows or salt/sand trucks.
  4. Lay off the cruise control.
    • Don’t get me wrong, cruise control is an awesome feature however it’s not recommended when traveling on icy or snow-covered roads. The basic function of cruise control is the comfort of traveling at a consistent speed and safe to use when road conditions are the same, however, winter driving can change from one minute to the next. It is best to have full control of your speed and complete attention while driving.
    • This ensures you’re traveling at the safest speed and allows you to change that speed easily and quickly.
  5. Do not panic if you are skidding or sliding!
    • If you find yourself in this situation it is best to remain calm and look for an area that is safe to go towards and steer your vehicle in that direction.
    • Excessive braking can make skidding worse so when dealing with anti-lock brakes the CCOHS recommends using the heel-and-toe method and not removing your foot from the brake until you have come to a safe and complete stop.
    • Winter road tip #2: if you are sliding and there is a snow-covered area of your lane and safe to do so, you can try to get in those tracks as snow will naturally provide more traction than ice.

Winter Vehicle Essentials

Before heading out next, check and see if you have these winter driving vehicle essentials. If the weather has taken a turn, or you are stuck and waiting for help they will help keep you warm and safe.

  1. Winter clothing.
    • In extreme cold, the temperature in your car can plummet quickly. You could be in a situation where your car is not able to run so it is essential to pack winter clothing items & boots for each member of the car. Blankets are another great vehicle essential that can be stored in your truck.
  2. Shovel.
    • The difference between being stuck overnight and back on the road could be whether or not you have a shovel. Even a compact, foldable shovel will help dig out the snow around your tires and get you back on the road.
  3. First aid kit.
    • In addition to the kit, it is smart to store food that won’t spoil such as energy bars and water.
  4. Phone charger/battery pack.
    • Charging your phone during your drive will ensure you have a full battery in case you are in need of help and need to call for assistance.
    • Another great option is to keep a battery pack with multiple functions that can charge devices as well as jump car batteries and inflate tires.
  5. Tow ropes.
  6. Jumper cables.
  7. Traffic pylons.
    • This helps alert upcoming drivers if you are pulled off to the side of the road.
  8. Sand/salt or wood.
    • This will provide traction if you are stuck or in deep snow.
    • Spinning tires only creates more ice build-up.
    • Check out Go Auto’s blog on tips for getting unstuck in the snow!

These are just a few items that are important for all winter drivers. Get Prepared Canada has put together a great checklist to help you cross off the essentials.

It’s always recommended to review your auto coverage. Not only will doing so help you understand what your insurance covers and it’s limits, but it also will bring to your attention all other options available. If you find yourself in a fender bender, chipped windshield from a salt truck, or without a vehicle while it’s being repaired, your insurance can respond to all of these based on your coverage. Are you interested in learning about extension coverages? Our auto brokers would be happy to help explore options with you so you know all coverages available to make you feel the most comfortable when driving this winter!

Check out our auto insurance page where you can find additional resources.

We hope this helped you either refresh your winter driving knowledge or provided useful tips for your next winter driving experience. Safe driving from the Westland family!